Forest Service wins 2

The Forest Service turned back a challenge on the Manti-La Sal National Forest to its management of a research natural area in Utah Native Plant Society v. U. S. Forest Service. The state of Utah had introduced mountain goats outside of the national forest boundary, over the objections of the Forest Service that they could adversely affect the plants being protected by the RNA. Plaintiffs challenged the Forest Service for allowing the reintroduction, and failing to remove the goats after they were introduced. The court dismissed plaintiffs’ claims because there was no requirement for a special use permit for actions beyond national forest boundaries or for “migrating wildlife,” and the Forest had not yet determined the effects of the introduction nor decided to take any action on the mountain goats that could be challenged. The court did indicate that this was not the end of the story:

“Indeed, it would be nonsensical if an administrative agency could kick the proverbial can down the road by merely stating that more research must be conducted before acting. Eventually, after further research, the Forest Service will need to take a position.”

In Granat v. USDA a federal district court in California upheld the travel management plan for the Plumas National Forest against a NEPA challenge from counties and motorized user groups. It refused to require the Forest to conduct field surveys to support its environmental analysis because plaintiffs did not explain how that would have changed the outcome of the analysis conducted by the Forest. The court found that the Forest had considered an adequate range of alternatives, that the prohibition of non-highway legal vehicles on maintenance level three roads was reasonable, and that the Forest properly coordinated with local governments. The EIS also adequately considered economic and recreation impacts and the Forest adequately responded to public comments. A cumulative effects analysis beyond the Forest boundaries was not necessary. Changes between the draft and final EIS were not “substantial” and did not require a supplemental EIS. The court also upheld compliance with requirements of the Travel Management Rule.

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